The four games that make up THE GREAT WAR IN THE EAST (along with a fifth title: the S&T Magazine Game, TANNENBERG) utilize a similar mix of game components, and are designed around a set of Standard Rules that are common to them all. Each individual simulation also has its own short set of Exclusive Rules specific to that game. This design format makes it almost effortless to move from one game to the next without a lot of time spent learning a new game system with each new title. Thus, each game while similar to the others in this set, still offers the players a different and unique gaming experience.
Underpinning the standard game system of THE GREAT WAR IN THE EAST is a relatively conventional design platform embellished with a few unconventional “wrinkles” which, considering that all of the "quadri-game's" titles are World War I games, often allow for a surprising amount of fluid, mobile action. Each of these titles is played in game turns which typically represent three days of real time. Individual game turns are divided into an Entente followed by a Central Powers player turn; however in certain scenarios, the Central Powers player will move first, as the Entente side is assumed to have already acted in the initial game turn. Each title in the "quadri-game" includes its own four-color, hexagonal grid game map which depicts the historical battlefields on the Eastern, Balkan, and Italian Fronts where the game's different actions actually occurred. The back-printed unit counters represent the historical combat units (brigades, divisions, and corps) that took part, or that could have participated in the various campaigns.
The basic mechanics of THE GREAT WAR IN THE EAST series, are “Igo-Ugo” with each player moving and then attacking in turn. Movement is typically restricted to two types: regular ground movement and rail movement. The supply rules — although important from the standpoint of movement, combat, and attrition — are neither complicated nor particularly onerous. The real essence of the game system comes from the command and control (headquarters) and Tactical Competence Rating (TCR) rules. To move or attack normally, a unit must not only be in supply, it must also be within range of a friendly headquarters unit. Each headquarters unit — very much like Russian leaders in PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN — has both a command “span” (the range in hexes over which orders may be broadcast) and a command “capacity” (the number of unit stacking points that may be controlled in each game turn). Interestingly, while command from a headquarters, depending on the TCR value of a unit, may not be required for movement, it is absolutely required for a unit to attack. The TCR rules are, in some ways, a natural compliment to the headquarters rules. Each combat unit in THE GREAT WAR IN THE EAST has a TCR value of from 1 (the best) to 4 (the worst). These ratings are important because, not only do they affect a unit’s movement initiative, they also affect both its ability to traverse difficult terrain and its ability to retreat into or through enemy zones of control (more on this retreat effect, later). Returning to the issue of movement initiative, units that, for one reason or another, do not receive movement orders from a friendly headquarters, or cavalry units that are being attacked by enemy units may still be activated via a successful die roll. In these situations, if the die roll is greater than a combat unit’s TCR value, then the unit may move normally, or, in the case of “screening” cavalry, may withdraw before combat.
Interestingly, the standard combat rules for THE GREAT WAR IN THE EAST, like the headquarters rules, are very reminiscent of PGG. Combat between adjacent enemy units is always voluntary; however, as noted earlier, a phasing unit MUST receive “orders” from a friendly headquarters to be able to attack. The standard game platform uses a PGG-style split-result, odds-differential combat results table (CRT), with combat results displayed as numerical values. In the case of the defender, losses may be taken either as steps, as retreat hexes, or as some combination of the two. However — this being a game about World War I — the attacker may never retreat, but, instead, must always extract any required combat losses as casualties. Needless-to-say, with this type of combat system, it is very difficult for the attacker to inflict battlefield losses on any defender who can retreat as a result of combat. This all changes, however, if the defender can be surrounded prior to combat, is not adjacent to any friendly-occupied flight hexes, AND the unit being attacked has a TCR value of 2 or more. The defender’s TCR value is important because units with a TCR of 1 (think: Germans) may retreat through enemy ZOCs without penalty, while all other units (think: Entente) are subject to elimination.
Victory in all of the games in THE GREAT WAR IN THE EAST series of games is based on a comparison of the respective victory points levels of the two sides at the conclusion of play. The specific victory conditions will vary from game to game (and scenario to scenario), but typically are determined by the capture and control of certain geographical objectives and, as might be expected, the destruction of enemy combat strength.
THE INDIVIDUAL GAMESCAPORETTO is an operational simulation of the combined Austro-Hungarian and German offensive in the fall of 1917 that shattered the Italian Army and almost knocked Italy out of the war. This offensive is also of note because it marked the first use, by the Germans, of the new Stosstruppen infiltration tactics that would later be used at Riga and on the Western Front in the closing months of the war. CAPORETTO offers two scenarios: the historical scenario; and the Tyrol Offensive scenario. In addition, for those admirers of Erwin Rommel, the designer offers a “Heroic Leader” rule to reflect the impact of certain effective low-ranking officers during this battle. The historical game is fifteen turns long and was designed by Albert A. Nofi.
THE BRUSILOV OFFENSIVE is simulation of the large-scale Russian offensive against the Austro-Hungarian and German armies in Galicia in June, 1916. The Brusilov Offensive, despite its success, was a contributing factor in the ultimate collapse of the Tsarist government; as the game’s introduction puts it: “In terms of territory captured and losses inflicted, this offensive was the most successful operation conducted against the Central Powers during the entire war. The failure of the Russians to eliminate the Austro-Hungarians from the war dictated their eventual military collapse, deepening the despair that was a factor in fomenting the “October Revolution” of 1917.” THE BRUSILOV OFFENSIVE offers two scenarios: the historical scenario (June 4th start of the offensive); and the attack on schedule scenario in which the offensive is delayed to its originally planned start date of June 15th 1916. To give the players more game options, the designer also offers four additional scenario variations: Early Release of the Russian Special Guards Army; West Front Offensive; Increased Supply and Rail Capacity; and Better Commanders. The historical game is fourteen turns long and was designed by James F. Dunnigan.
SERBIA/GALICIA is a simulation of the two-front strategic dilemma facing Austria-Hungary in the opening months of World War I. With the onset of war, Austria-Hungary wass confronted by two immediate military threats: the Serbian Army on its southern flank; and a Russian invasion of its eastern province of Galicia. SERBIA/GALICIA offers three scenarios: the historical campaign scenario; the free deployment campaign scenario; and the 1 September 1914: Decision in Galicia scenario. In addition, the designer offers several optional rules including: The wrong envelope rule; the Austrian attack imperative; and the cavalry forage rule. The historical game is thirteen turns long and was designed by J. A. Nelson.
VON HINDENBERG IN POLAND is a simulation of the German Warsaw-Lodz Campaign of September-November 1914. This operation, planned by Germany’s commanders in East Prussia: von Hindenberg and Ludendorff, had as its objective the seizure of the Vistula crossings followed by the capture of the Russian-controlled city of Warsaw. The German destruction of the Russian 2nd Army at Tannenberg in August, had temporarily relieved pressure on the Germans from the Russian forces in the East, but had led to an inconclusive series of engagements in late August and early September. The German high command was confident that this campaign would regain the initiative which had shifted to the Russians, and provide for a more aggressive, less static defense of German territory in the East. While the Germans made their preparations, the Russians also planned. In late September, the Grand Duke Nicholas, as Russian Supreme Commander, ordered the redeployment of three Russian armies from Galicia to the Polish salient with the intention of launching a powerful drive into Germany. This is the historical situation the two players find themselves in at the beginning of VON HINDENBERG IN POLAND: two contending forces, both committed to the offensive and unaware of the other’s plans, prepare to crash head-on into each other in Poland. Although, the game only offers the historical scenario, it does include several optional rules that can dramatically affect the course of play: Central Powers hidden movement, and Russian garrison restrictions. The game is fifteen turns long and was designed by Anthony Beavers.
Game Components (for all four Games):
- Four 16” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Turn Record Chart and Terrain Key incorporated)
- 800 ½” cardboard Counters
- Two 8½” x 11” Standard Rules Booklets (with Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
- Four 8½” x 11” Exclusive Rules Booklets (with Scenario Instructions)
- One 8½” x 11” Historical Background Booklet
- One 8½” x 11” Hidden Unit Display (VON HINDENBERG IN POLAND only)
- One small six-sided Die
- One 8” x 11½” SPI Mail Order Catalog
- One 3½” x 8½” Customer Response Card
- One SPI 9¼” x 12” x 2” bookcase-style Game Box